In the thirty years since Lynda Carter retired her red, white and blue Wonder Woman costume, the one that ushered many a boy through puberty, the heroic Amazon had found herself just appearing in her long-running comic book, or in the occasional animated cartoon, but in 2011 NBC decided to take their shot at bringing DC’s most well-known female superhero back into the world of live action. Word of a Wonder Woman movie, or new series, had become almost an annual thing (Does anyone remember the Megan Fox as Wonder Woman rumor?) but where Batman and Superman churned out multiple versions, on both the big and small screen, over the last few decades no one had been able to get a Wonder Woman project off the ground. This version, created by television wunderkind David E. Kelley, was to be a reinvention of the iconic DC Comic character, where she would now be a successful corporate executive as well as a vigilante crime fighter. Then after test screenings of the unfinished pilot were met with a large degree of negative feedback NBC shelved the entire project, and today we will take a look at what exactly went wrong with this “new” take on Wonder Woman.
The pilot opens with Willis Parks (B.J. Britt), a young African American from the inner-city who just learned he’d been accepted into a college, but his scholastic dreams are put on hold when he then proceeds to bleed from his eyes and ears. This completely ruins his family’s celebratory mood, and it’s this kid’s illness and eventual death that spurs Wonder Woman into action. Later we learn that this was all caused by an illegal super-steroid created by evil businesswoman Veronica Cale (Elizabeth Hurley) – a prominent villain from the comics – and sure this teen’s death is tragic, but why was he taking a performance-enhancing drug? Was it through a sports scholarship that he got accepted into college? If so young Willis isn’t all that innocent, and if he didn’t purposely take the steroid then are we to believe Veronica Cale was slipping this experimental drug into the lunches of random teenagers? Regardless this kid did not deserve to die, and Veronica Cale must be stopped, but who can stop this evil head of a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company? Why that would be Diana Themyscira (Adrianne Palicki) of course, the heroic head of another multi-million dollar company, one that merchandizes Wonder Woman toys. Turns out that this version of Wonder Woman has three identities, first, there is Diana Themyscira, the powerful head of Themyscira Industries, then we have her costumed Wonder Woman persona, whose crime-fighting is funded by the merchandise sold by her company, and finally there is Diana Prince, who lives alone with her cat. Basically, this is like if everyone was aware that millionaire Bruce Wayne was Batman but he also had a third “secret identity” so that he could chill and watch episodes of The Bachelor.
Note: One of Diana’s biggest peeves is about her being objectified by the over-endowed breasts of her action figure, “I never agreed to merchandise my tits!”
Secret identities and superheroes go together like macaroni and cheese, but having three identities is a bit odd (Moon Knight is one of the rare superheroes to operate under multiple identities, and that eventually drove him crazy), but in the case of this version of Wonder Woman, it’s just incredibly stupid. There are three key reasons for a secret identity, first, so that the people close to you won’t be targeted by enemies of your super alter-ego, secondly so that the authorities can’t arrest you for your blatant illegal activities as a vigilante, and third is so that you can have some semblance of a normal life when not punching super villains. Yet in this pilot, it’s revealed that Diana Themyscira is publicly known to be the vigilante Wonder Woman, pundits on television decry or laud her criminal antics, but apparently, the Los Angeles police department is cool with a rich industrialist violating every constitutional law in the book. In Gotham City Commission Gordon can operate in secret with Batman so that he can fall back on plausible deniability, but if Bruce Wayne publicly came out as Batman he would be forced to arrest him. Yet in this show Wonder Woman not only chases down and beats up suspects, ones that she later tortures while they are in police custody, and in the very hospital room she put them in, yet she is never held accountable for these actions.
Our first introduction to Wonder Woman is her chasing a super-enhanced henchman called John O’Quinn (Joseph Gatt) through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, she uses her “Lasso of Truth” to catch him and then while pinned to the sidewalk she sticks him with a hypodermic needle to get a blood sample from him. When the authorities finally arrive, and a police officer tells Wonder Woman to “Give him up,” her response to this request is, “If I give him to you he’ll lawyer up.” What exactly are her options here? Did she plan on just outright murdering the dude? Or does Themyscira Industries have a secret gulag for incarcerating Wonder Woman’s enemies? There is a difference between working outside the law and flagrantly breaking it. This version of Wonder Woman is more The Punisher-type vigilante and not the symbol of hope and democracy that the character had stood for in the pages of the comics for generations. Later when she wants to find out where Veronica Cale’s secret lab is located she browbeats her way past the cops guarding O’Quinn’s hospital room, she takes out her “Lasso of Truth” and sets it down, unused, and then proceeds to torture the information out of him by breaking his arm.
It’s not only while dressed as Wonder Woman that she is breaking the law for at one point Diana Themyscira holds a press conference, where she tells the world that Veronica Cale is illegally manufacturing a steroidal compound that has caused the deaths of at least six teenagers, and she then points at a picture of Veronica Cale and states, “This woman is responsible, but I can’t prove it.” She ends the press conference by addressing Veronica Cale personally, “Miss Cale, trust me if the law doesn’t get you I will.” Does she not understand what slander is? She publicly accuses a person of numerous crimes, states clearly that she has no actual proof, and then ends her speech with a veiled threat of violence. That’s slander and assault. How is she not in jail, or at least spending every waking moment in court? I know the rich and powerful get away with a lot but there is a limit.
Later Veronica Cale pays Diana a visit, without lawyers or the police which I found rather odd if not outright stupid, and she spends the entire meeting proclaiming her innocence. What the fuck? She doesn’t need to proclaim her innocence as Diana had just announced to the world she had no proof of Cale Pharmaceutical’s criminal activities, but instead of just letting her lawyers handle things Cale felt the need to threaten Wonder Woman in person, stating that if she didn’t a back off she’d sick her Washington DC friends on her. This leads to Diana having dinner with Senator Warren (Edward Herrmann), where he informs her that, “There is some concern in Washington regarding your criminal conduct. Some questions as to why you haven’t been investigated or prosecuted.” Her quippy comeback is that the country is in such lousy shape that they should be worrying about the economy and not her “work habits.” The Senator replies, “You beat people up, you commit torture, last night you all but choked a man to death. You stabbed him with a needle to draw his blood. Even the most liberal interpretation of the Patriot Act doesn’t contemplate the things you do.”
Simply put this is not a version of Wonder Woman I could see anyone getting behind, even if I let slide the stupidity of her triple identity I still can’t get behind turning Wonder Woman into a cold and callous vigilante, one who is okay with the murder and torture of her enemies. When Wonder Woman eventually gets the location of the secret lab she bashes her way in, where she then proceeds to fight off an army of “Super-Soldiers” by maiming and killing several of them, but the real kicker is when she impales a security guard through the neck with a metal pipe.
Note: Her police contact had told her not to enter the facility because they couldn’t get a warrant, but then he also told her that once she breaks in it will be a crime scene and then the police will be allowed to enter. Is that how the law works?
After heroically murdering her way through Veronica Cale’s minions she comes face to face with the evil CEO herself, and Cale calmly states, “You have invaded my place of business with no warrant. You have injured my employees, some of them catastrophically, others you have killed, and I have all of it on various cameras. You are about to meet your equal Wonder Woman…the American Criminal Justice System.” And how does Wonder Woman respond to a woman, who was basically stating the facts? She rolls her eyes in disdain, lashes out with her lasso, drags Veronica towards her by the neck, picks her up, slams her against the wall and then asks, “Want to feel my lesson?”
Wonder Woman then returns to Themyscira Industries, where she is greeted by applauding crowds, well-applauding employees to be more accurate (If they didn’t applaud would they be fired?) and we learn that Veronica Cale has been arrested, which is apparently a good thing even though her lawyers will have her free in a couple of hours, and so the day is saved. sigh
There is so much wrong with this show it’s hard to believe it got past the script stage. Her costume looks like it was designed for a cosplaying prostitute, her entourage of lackeys are a gaggle of bickering idiots, led by Henry Johns (Cary Elwes) as the man who runs the company while she is out torturing people, and then we have Steve Trevor (Justin Bruening), who first shows up in flashback form as the man Diana left behind so that she could pursue her one-woman war on crime, and to say these two lack any screen chemistry is an understatement to end all understatements.
Note: She broke it off with Trevor because her crime-fighting would endanger those she is close to, but as she is known publicly as both Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman wouldn’t any friends or employees of hers be a target? So either she’s not very bright or that was the best excuse she could come up with to dump Trevor.
To throw the moral compass of this show further out of whack the episode concludes with Trevor showing up as a Justice Department representative, the one sent by the corrupt Senator Warren to investigate Diana’s actions, but despite being married Trevor still has a thing for Diana, so he immediately finds Diana “innocent” without bothering to investigate. In conclusion, Wonder Woman openly commits multiple crimes, flagrantly flaunts authority to get what she wants, and is never held accountable for any of this because her ex-boyfriend now works for the Justice Department and can help cover them up…somehow.
Wait, there’s more…
We get an epilogue of her in her Diana Prince persona settling down in her little apartment with her cat Sylvester, and over sad music, she creates a Facebook account where she registers herself as single and her cat as her only friend. I’m not sure if this implies that her cat already had a Facebook account but regardless this is a pathetic way to end a show. If this is supposed to humanize her character it fails miserably, as all we’ve seen in this pilot is that she has an almost complete disdain for the law and the people around her, her living alone with a cat does not change this one bit. If anything it hardens the idea that she is quite possibly nuts, and if the show had been picked up by NBC I would have expected it to eventually reveal that the Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman personas were all part of the delusional mind of Diana Prince, and the cat was telling her who to kill.
Wonder Woman (2011)
This failed pilot is only available as a leaked unfinished screener, thanks youtube, but anyone who watches it must come to the conclusion that this would have been the worst Wonder Woman yet, and that’s saying something.